I’ll take you on a walk. Down those paths maybe. Close your eyes and imagine you enter through a tall wooden gate, painted with flowers. The neighbor rebuilt his side, which my door is hinged to, and now it doesn’t close properly. My daughter says the sound of gate pulling open gives her goosebumps. One of these days I’ll pull out the wood plane and fix it.
The gangway–that narrow walk between the buildings that is so typically Chicago–is dark and spidery. I always think about Dorothy and friends stepping out of the forest into Oz– “step out of the dark step out of the woods step into the light”– because once you get through the gangway there is no more shade. This is a full sun garden despite being surrounded by trees. An accident of arrangement means that the shade misses everything but the house. I often think I’m a gardener purely by accident, because if I’d had shade, I’d probably never have tried it, since no one in my family ever gardened.
As you step out of the gangway and past the cellar stairs, you first hear and then see the pond. It’s supposed to be inauspicious to have a water feature at an entrance, but the only other place to put it was in the wealth bagua, which is worse (my children are shaking their heads in despair at this point). If you like, come around the end of our “puddle” and sit in the one shady corner (but only after 4 p.m.). Just a couple of old porch posts set up as a bench, where you can listen to the water running and try to spot all 5 fish.
Up a path past pond and cottage garden, down a path past cottage garden and berry patch (still new–just mulch and seedlings pretty much. Is that a strawberry?) Down the sidewalk, and peer into the tomato patch to see if anybody’s red. This bed is Fort Knox of Chicken Wire in an attempt to keep our resident rabbit from eating all the beans. Two pastes, 5 slicers, 4 types of cherries. Some basil and some zucchini, stupidly planted in the shade of the tomatoes, so it isn’t very happy. Who plans these things anyway.
Hook a left past the original bed, shaped like a half circle. There are no straight lines in my garden, or my life. The garden, like the gardener, zigs and zags, never really settling on anything. The half circle bed has corn this year, in a Three Sisters bed, although the rabbit has pretty much taken ownership of the beans. There are skinny little paths through here, too so I can groom and harvest, but my paths are never as wide as they should be–I just hate to give up the space where I could be growing things. Tomatillos, parsnips, carrots, black beans, leeks, Swiss chard and Brussels sprouts in a skinny box and potatoes in a SmartPot®.
There’s a patio, ringed by bell peppers in pots, with an umbrella table; I’m expecting the squash to start climbing the umbrella at any time. The squash is a volunteer, way too big for my tiny space, with a sister taking over the compost pile. The fruit is oblate and yellow; some strange hybrid.
Leave the vegetables and wander into Narnia, so named because my children were constantly trying to find the magical entrance when they were small; I told them if they went through the trellis entry to this path in just the right way they’d get there. To prove it, I placed Aslan against an old stump. Out through the trellis and you’re back in the vegetables–a serpentine bed (lord, more curves, don’t tell Mel Bartholomew). Onions, eggplants, turnips, shell beans, dill, cucumbers, more chard, broccoli, beets.
Turn one way and find a tiny grassland with a glass brick path; turn the other and glass bricks lead you through an herb garden and into the other gangway.
The whole walk can talk 5 minutes or 5 hours, and it’s how I start every day. Thank you for joining me!